[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] Monday affirmed [PDF text] a judgment by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on an anti-apartheid claims lawsuit on the rare grounds that it lacked a quorum due to four recusals. Am. Isuzu Motors, Inc., et al. v. Ntsebeza, Lungisile, et al involved a huge class of plaintiffs suing several dozen companies which did business in South Africa during apartheid, [JURIST news archive], seeking to hold them liable for alleged complicity in perpetuating the oppression of the black majority in that country. The Second Circuit held [PDF, text] that Torture Victims Protection Act [text] claims would be dismissed but Alien Tort Claims Act [text] actions could go forward to trial [JURIST report].
Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito and Breyer recused themselves because of stock holdings in several of the companies, and press reports speculated that Justice Kennedy's conflict stems from his son's position at one of the defendant companies. Lacking a quorum, the remaining justices were required by statute [text] to affirm the lower court ruling. Individual judicial recusals due to investment conflicts are to be expected [USA Today report], but Monday's ruling may raise concerns over the fairness of such measures.